Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Brisbane to Bourke

We set off from Brisbane on Thursday April 9 to do some exploring through New South Wales and Victoria. Our first overnight stop was at Inglewood where we found a free camp and met up with Dianne and Ron – our travelling buddies. The free camp there was a great little spot with lush green grass and in a quiet part of the town. We left  the next morning for a drive of a bit over 200km to our next stop which was to be at our niece Maree’s and her husband John’s home on Curragundi Station, west of Moree. Travelled via Goondiwindi where we detoured to have a look around and Bogabilla for a morning tea break. Maree met us at Bullalah Public School and we then followed her through some farms to their place. We spent two days there and had a lovely time with them and their family. Lots of talking, laughing, eating and playing with the kids went on! John took David and Ron on a tour of the property on Saturday morning so I’ll hand over to David now to report on that.

Inglewood      SAM_5738 Sunset Curragundi Station      SAM_5741 Elsa

Relaxing at Inglewood            Sunset at Curragundi        Elsa ready for farm work!

Curragundi is a 28,000 acre property which runs some sheep and some cattle and also has an agricultural side.  Our host John Weier is managing the agricultural side of the business which means growing any stock feed that is required and other commercial crops. John was good enough to take Ron and I on a bit of a tour, some interesting machinery – some older well maintained and well used and some near new with hi-tech computer operating systems that allow hands free ploughing, harvesting etc, etc.

Great stuff and very interesting. One of those tractors had lights a good rally car would envy, but as they work round the clock during the planting and harvesting the lights are understandable. Thanks John, really appreciated the tour even though it was well outside anything I had seen before.

It was sad to say goodbye to the Weier family on Sunday morning but it was time to move on. Next stop was Lightning Ridge. David and I had been here with our boys about 30 years ago and there have been a huge number of changes since then. Some things don’t change though. Yesterday someone told us that this is the place that people come to when they want to disappear and I remember hearing that the first time we were here. We booked in to the caravan park, had lunch and then set off to do some exploring. There were mullock heaps as far as the eye could see, various opal mines, Lunatic Lookout which looks over a large open cut mine and where an opal valued at $2.5 million dollars was found, myriads of rusty old cars and machinery and all sorts of shacks and huts where people live. It is extremely dry here as the country has been in drought for three years. A lot of people do it tough but others make their fortune and everyone thinks that tomorrow will be the day when they will strike it rich.

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Open cut opal mine            One who didn’t make it!              A glorious sunset

Monday morning it was time to dip our toes in the Artesian Bore Baths. The water is at a constant 41 degrees so it was like getting into a very hot bath. The water is reputed to give relief to aching bodies so I think it would be a popular place for the miners. We enjoyed the experience but didn’t stay in too long as we were afraid we’d resemble lobsters when we got out!  After that we headed back to Queensland to a little town called Hebel which is 70km from Lightning Ridge and just over the border. It has a population of 28 so there wasn’t a lot happening there! It consists of a few houses, a hotel, general store and a caravan park and very little else. We checked out the Bokhara River which flows past the town and to our surprise there was quite a lot of water in it. We lunched at the General Store before returning to do a tour of the Chambers of the Black Hand Opal Mine. As well as the opal mine, there are over 500 carvings/sculptures in the sandstone walls of the mine which have all been done by one man over a period of about 18 years. It was incredible to see the variety there. We then went down another level and did a tour of the mine. The guide was great and apart from factual information about mining opals had lots of stories to tell as well. He was a miner for many years until he was badly injured in a cave-in in his mine. He has just purchased $10,000 worth of equipment and is about to take up mining again. Some people never learn! We toured around the area a bit more after leaving the mine and then it was time to come home for a rest. Later on we drove up to Nettletons First Shaft Lookout to watch the sunset. It turned out though that the sunset we’d seen on Monday from the caravan park was far more spectacular.

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Artesian Bore Baths                      The Last Supper                       The Crucifixion

We decided to change our plans and have an extra day in Lightning Ridge after talking to a guy at the lookout yesterday. We stayed on another day to do the “3 Pubs in the Scrub” day trip. It begins about 60km from Lightning Ridge over some fairly bad dirt road and wanders through opal fields. First stop was at The Club in the Scrub which has a golf course included. It didn’t look very inviting! Next was the Grawin General Store and Post Office – both had to be seen to be believed. On then to the Mulga Rush Mullock Dumps where there were lots of people picking through the rubble in the hopes of finding that elusive opal. As we drove further on we were amazed to find the Sheepyard War Memorial and Museum which was absolutely in the middle of nowhere.  We spent quite a while there and found the displays very moving.  Somehow after that we missed the  Sheepyard Inn so only ended up seeing “Two Pubs in the Scrub”.  Our final stop was at the Glengarry Hilton were we had a lunch stop – massive works burgers were the meals of choice and they were impressive. While we were eating lunch a miner we’d met the day before walked by.  We were talking to him about the fact that we hadn’t found any opals and with that he went back to his truck and came back with eight doublet opals – two for each of us.  We were stunned to say the least.  He was a bit of a rough diamond but very likeable and we were very grateful for his generosity.  The day was completed with a look through Sweeney Art and Craft Centre. I think the wives of some of the miners must keep themselves occupied by doing art and craft. None of us could even begin to imagine living in this part of the world. We all had a rest after arriving back at the park then I had a swim in the pool here before we all walked back to the Artesian Bore Baths for one last soak there.

SAM_5886 The Club in the Scrub         SAM_5902 Mulga Rush Mullock Dump        SAM_5916 Glengarry Hilton

Club in the Scrub Golf Course  Mulga Rush Mullock Dump         Glengarry Hilton

SAM_5914         SAM_5917 Water tank Glengarry toilet        SAM_5927

Sheepyard War Memorial           Note the plumbing!                      Beautiful opals

Queenslander 2014

Taylors Beach to  Burrum Heads

We’ve had a reasonably quiet week. David and I left Taylors Beach on Thursday morning and headed for Nome which is just south of Townsville. I had a doctor’s appointment along the way to try to sort out what was wrong with my shoulder. From there we went on to our friends, Lou and Armando, at Nome. We were looking forward to spending time with them. Lou and I have been friends since we were about six years old so it was a special time. They were cane farmers for many years but have retired now and live at the most amazing place perched right up on top of a hill with incredible 360 degree views. After lunch David and I had to go back into town so that I could have a scan and x-ray of my shoulder.

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David, Armando & the view                What a home!               David, Jen, Lou & Armando

Rain set in overnight and in the next 24 hours we had just over three inches of rain – most welcome. We went out on Friday afternoon to look at our old house where we lived from 1973 to 1983. It looked great but has changed quite a bit since we lived there. We also checked out Wulguru State Primary School where our boys all began their school life and also Wulguru Uniting Church where we worshipped for ten years.  On then to the doctor to get the results of the scan. I have a partial tear of the rotator cuff so she suggested that I try to see a physiotherapist at our next port of call. We then caught up with some other old friends, Ian and Jean. David navigated for Ian in many rallies when we lived in North Queensland and they also competed in the 1979 Repco Round Australia Trial so there were many stories told and much laughter. At night we went out to the Alligator Creek Bowls Club for dinner with Lou and Armando and their friends and thoroughly enjoyed our evening.

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Our home 1973-1983              Wulguru State School            Wulguru Uniting Church

Sadly we had to leave our friends on Saturday morning. We were meeting up with Di and Ron at our nephew’s place in Townsville. It was nice to spend a couple of hours with Andy, Alicia and Harrison before heading for an overnight stop at a free camp at Guthalungra (north of Bowen). There were plenty of other vans there and it was well set up for camping. Our next port of call was Mackay. The skies had cleared overnight and it was a beautiful day. We arrived at the caravan park about mid-day. Had a visit during the afternoon from my cousin Joe who we’d tried to see in Cairns but he was away then. I don’t think we’d seen each other for about 40 years but we found plenty to talk about. Sunday night was spent with another old friend, Gail, from our Townsville days. The four of us went and had dinner with her. I then spent quite a bit of time with her on Monday. David took the chance to stay at the van and have a lazy day while Di and Ron explored Mackay. Physio in the afternoon but it ended up being a short appointment. She thinks I now need to have a scan of my neck as the symptoms I’ve been experiencing made her think I may have an issue with a disc and she didn’t want to risk causing any further damage. I’ll leave it until we get home now as long as it doesn’t get any worse. We did a tour of the port after my appointment. David was amazed at the changes since he was involved in shipping here. Mackay is a lovely town – another place to put on our list of places to live!

SAM_5448         SAM_5451 Whistling ducks at Mackay       SAM_5453       Sunset, not fire, at Guthalungra       Whistling Ducks                Mackay – ships at anchor

We had a short trip today, only 120 kilometres, to a place called Clairview. We are free camping by the beach tonight and have spent a few hours sitting around a campfire. Such luxury! It was hard to pack up and leave on Wednesday. Not a lot to report for the day – we moved on to another free camp, this time at Benaraby just south of Gladstone. The local councils have gone to a lot of trouble to set up areas for free camping and it certainly benefits them as most people spend time and money in their towns. We decided while there that we’d head next to Burrum Heads to spend a few days there before bring our trip to an end.

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Tide’s out at Clairview!                                 A new day dawning!

The weather was reasonable when we arrived here and we all enjoyed a walk along the waterfront later in the day. It’s lovely to see the pelicans swimming by and boats anchored in the river. We woke on Friday to clouds and managed to get a walk in before the rain started. That’s pretty much what we’ve had ever since – rain!  Went for a drive to Hervey Bay later in the day and had a good look around there. Otherwise we’ve mostly had a lazy time. This morning Di and Ron packed up and left for home as they have a meeting to go to tomorrow. If the weather had been better they would have returned on Monday but it’s really not worth it the way things are.

SAM_5491 Burrum Heads     SAM_5499

Pelicans – I love them!                                   Burrum River at dusk

That’s it for now.  We’ll be home again soon so the next post will be a wrap up and then it will be back to the usual routines.  We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again.

Cooktown to Ingham

We spent another day in Cooktown. Visited the James Cook Museum which is run by the National Trust and is very well kept. One of the anchors and one of the cannons from the Endeavour are in the museum. They were amongst the items that were thrown overboard after the ship ran aground, in an effort to lighten it and float it off the reef. They were only recovered in the 1990’s. Lots of other interesting things to be seen as well. In the afternoon we drove out to see the Endeavour Falls which were about 30km north of Cooktown. Warnings of crocodiles abounded but we didn’t see any! The falls were lovely. Ron, Di and I had a wander around the local cemetery later on. One finds out a lot of history from such places so they are always interesting. Had a very windy and wet night so we were pleased to find everything still in one piece the next morning.

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Anchor from Endeavour    James Cook Museum                   Endeavour Falls

On Thursday morning we went our separate ways. Di and Ron were going to spend a few days at Mena Creek with some friends and we were heading up to Laura. We left our van at the caravan park at Lakeland Downs and just did a day trip up to Laura. On the way we stopped off to look at the Split Rock Aboriginal Rock Art site. It was a very steep climb up to the first site but was worthwhile to do. There were three different sites – Split Rock, Flying Fox and Tall Spirits and each with different types of paintings. On then to the small town of Laura and a further 28kms to see Old Laura Homestead. It is deserted now but it was good to look around. Lunch at Laura after that and then back to Lakeland Downs.

SAM_5167        SAM_5199         SAM_5200 Old Laura Homestead

Split Rock Art Site                               Laura River                      Old Laura Homestead

As I had a physiotherapy appointment in Atherton on Friday afternoon we moved on to stay at the Rocky Creek War Memorial Park just outside Atherton. It is a free camp and there would have been close to a hundred vans there – a great spot. Saw the physio who suggested I see a doctor when we get to Townsville then try to get a scan done, so that might change our plans a little but we’ll wait and see. The next morning we drove down to Cairns via Kuranda and enjoyed seeing the rich farming lands and beautiful scenery. We spent the afternoon visiting David’s cousin Celeste and her husband Ian and had a lovely time with them. Drove into the CBD after that to try to find ANL’s old office and wharf where David spent many hours when he was still working for ANL and we eventually succeeded. Then we went to The Esplanade and circled the area a few times before we finally found a place to park. It’s a bit like the waterfront at Surfers Paradise or Noosa – incredibly busy. It was nice to stroll along beside the water while enjoying an icecream!

SAM_5209 Rocky Creek War Memorial Park  SAM_5210 View of Cairns

Some of the vans at Rocky Creek                             View from Kuranda Range

We had planned to move on to Hull Heads near Tully on Sunday but thanks to the luxury of having our “home on wheels” with us were able to change our plans easily. We’d enjoyed a leisurely drive from Cairns, stopped in a Babinda for a delicious coffee, then detoured to drive past Paronella Park which I had first visited in 1964 and we’d then returned with our boys in 1983. It’s a “castle” which was built between 1929 and 1935 by Jose Paronella for his bride Margarita. It has had quite a history since then and now thanks to fire, floods and three cyclones is in a rather poor state. Anyway, after talking to the owner we decided to book in to the caravan park there and stay overnight. We did a guided tour in the afternoon and learnt lots about the history of the place and then later on did the night-time tour which focussed more on lighting up various parts of the old buildings. Both were very enjoyable.

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Mena Creek                   Ruins of refreshment Rooms          Ruins of “The Castle” + David!

As it happened, Di and Ron were staying just two kilometres from where we were, so we met up with them after leaving the park and drove down to Taylors Beach. We had another easy day with a few stops along the way. We checked out the Big Gumboot in Tully then drove out to Tully Heads and Hull Heads – both nice little beachside places. The drive down through Cardwell was interesting as when we were here two years ago there was much evidence of the damage that that been from Cyclone Yasi and also roadworks everywhere. The work on the highway is all finished now and compared to much of the Bruce Highway is wonderful to drive on. We lunched at Cardwell – delicious fresh crab sandwiches. The waitress there told us that Paul Hogan had lunched there the day before and that I was sitting in the chair where he had sat. I can’t say that it was the highlight of my day!  Another quick stop at the lookout over the Hinchinbrook Passage – it’s a magnificent view which never fails to impress.Our final stop for the day was at Taylors Beach where Lyndal and Don live. We’ve been able to park both the vans here and will enjoy a few days with family again.

SAM_5365           SAM_5367 Tully Heads          SAM_5370  Hinchinbrook Passage

The Big Gumboot                          Tully Heads                          Hinchinbrook Passage

We could hardly believe our eyes when we received a photo from Katie (our beautiful housesitter) of six peacocks/hens parading through our backyard on Tuesday morning.  She was terrified but we were just sorry that we weren’t there to see them.

Forest Lake - Peacocks 12.8.14

Peacock parade at Forest Lake

We’ve spent many hours here at Taylors Beach talking about and laughing over old times and have also fitted in a bit of sightseeing and exercise. Lunched at Forrest Beach on Tuesday and Di, Lyndal and I had a stroll along the beach. The three of us later walked up to Taylors Beach as well. Today we had a very lazy morning before driving back to Cardwell for a long walk before lunch. A fine job has been done in rebuilding along the waterfront.

Forrest Beach    Taylors Beach - Low tide

Forrest Beach                                                                Low tide at Taylors Beach

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Sailing ship off Cardwell                                          Old tree regenerated after Cyclone Yasi

That brings this episode to a close – only a couple more to go and we should be back home again.  Bye until next time.

Georgetown to Cooktown

We were a bit sad to leave Undara after a wonderful couple of days there but Cobbold Gorge was calling us. We stopped in at Mt Surprise for fuel and had planned to buy a coffee but after waiting in the shop for at least ten minutes we gave up as there was no sign of anyone to serve us. A bit further along the road we pulled up at a rest area instead. There was a lovely little billabong just off the road and cattle obviously taking the rest area sign to heart as they were nearly all sitting/lying under the shady trees. The caravan park in Georgetown was almost full when we arrived but thankfully we had booked ahead so had no problem. We all went for a walk up to the town centre after we’d set up. There wasn’t much open though as it was a show holiday for the Charters Towers show (5 hours away!).

SAM_4848 Billabong near Georgetown       SAM_4850

The Billabong                                                               Cattle at rest

Wednesday morning saw us heading to Cobbold Gorge for the day. We had to traverse 60 kilometres of dirt road to get there but mostly in good condition – just a few corrugations here and there to wake us up. The tour we were doing didn’t start until 1.30 so we had quite a bit of time to fill in which was no trouble at all. Our tour began in a 4 wheel drive bus which took us to just near the start of the gorge that was only discovered in the early 1990’s. From there we spent about an hour and a half walking around the area with the guide hearing about the history of the area and also interesting details about what the local aborigines used various plants for. We then climbed to the top of the gorge to look down to where we would soon go in the boat. There were some great rock formations and sheer drops down into the gorge. After clambering back down it was then time to climb into the boat and to venture into the gorge. The boat had an electric motor so was almost silent and it felt like we were gliding along except for when we hit the sides of the gorge! It was very narrow in places so was a tight squeeze to get through. It was a beautiful place with steep, towering walls, beautiful reflections and several freshwater crocodiles to make it just that little bit more interesting. We loved every minute of it and were so pleased that we’d gone. We arrived back at the caravan park just before 6.00pm and were ready for a quiet evening.

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Cobbold Gorge               Freshwater crocodile                 Beautiful reflections

On Thursday morning before leaving Georgetown for Atherton we called at the local butcher to purchase some meat as it had come highly recommended by our friend Russell. The butcher was a lovely fellow so we had quite a chat and a few laughs with him before getting on our way. We had 300km to cover that day so had a few rest breaks along the way. We stopped in at Innot Hot Springs to check out the springs and they were certainly hot. It was impossible to stand in the water which apparently comes out of the ground at 71 degrees Celsius. Next stop was a rest area where there was a lovely little creek burbling along and then we detoured in to Ravenshoe – a nice little town – to get some lunch. We finally arrived at the caravan park in Atherton at 2.30pm to be greeted by David’s and Di’s sister Lyndal and her husband Don. It was great to see them and we were all looking forward to spending a few days together. Plenty of chatter filled in the day once we were set up.

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Innot Hot Springs                                   Creek near Innot Hot Springs

Friday was spent looking at some points of interest on the Tablelands. First stop was the Curtain Fig Tree which is thought to be over 500 years old. It is quite a sight to see. Next was the Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra which was established to honour the soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. It is incredibly moving to see and is a beautiful, peaceful place. We all felt rather subdued when we left there.

SAM_5016        SAM_5020         SAM_5034           Curtain Fig Tree                                          Avenue of Honour

Lake Eacham and Malanda Falls were the last stops of the day. Home then to a magnificent dinner of prawns and barramundi provided by Lyndal and Don. We are certainly doing it tough!

SAM_5041 Lake Eacham     SAM_5043 SAM_5043 Malanda Falls

Lake Eacham                                                                           Malanda Falls

On Saturday we visited Mareeba but on the way stopped off at Rocky Creek War Memorial Park. It was established in 2007 on part of the site where a 3,000 bed hospital was built during World War II. Patients were brought there from all theatres of war in the South West Pacific and between 1943 and 1945 over 60,000 patients were treated. The Atherton Tablelands Area was the largest military base in Australia during that same period and between 200,000 and 300,000 troops were stationed there. It was again a sobering experience to see the memorial and we found plaques for both of our dad’s battalions or divisions. Next stop was the information centre at Mareeba where there is a great museum. After that a tour of Mareeba and then it was back to Atherton.

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My Dad’s Battalion                                            Rocky Creek War Memorial

David and I went to church on Sunday morning. It was the first time since we left home that we’d been in a place on a Sunday where there was a church. The others went off to Herberton to visit the Historical Village. We followed on afterwards but decided not to go to the village. Instead we drove around the town looking at the old buildings, found (we think) the house where my sister Barb lived when she taught here in 1972 and also the school. We then went out to Irvinebank which was a very prosperous tin mining town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s about 30km from Herberton through very rugged country. We couldn’t help but wonder how anyone ever found their way there and discovered the tin. Nothing much has changed since those days. We were quite taken with the dam which has a log wall. The home of the fellow who established the smelter and owned many of the mines (John Moffat) is now a museum and it was interesting to see through that.

DSCF6130        DSCF6135 Loudon Dam with log wall        DSCF6145 Home of John Moffat

Irvinebank transport                       Loudon Dam                      John Moffat’s home

On Monday we said goodbye to Lyndal and Don and then we set off for Cooktown. We had a good trip and are now settled in here for a few days. On our first full day here we just looked around the town.  Looked at various things to do with Captain Cook’s enforced stay in 1770 while the Endeavour was repaired, checked out the lighthouse at Grassy Hill (it was for sale when I was last here in 1986!), Finch Bay, stories of miners who came here for the Palmer River goldrush, the Endeavour River and a few other things.  We quite like what we’ve seen of Cooktown but don’t think we’ll be moving here any time soon!

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Endeavour River                     Captain James Cook         Lighthouse at Grassy Hill

More on Cooktown next time but for now I’ll finish and get this posted.

Cania Gorge to Undara

We departed from Cania Gorge on Sunday July 20 and our main aim was to get to Charters Towers by Wednesday. Our first day was fairly uneventful and we overnighted at Dingo. The caravan park was fine but not much else could be said for Dingo! On Tuesday we went as far as Clermont but detoured in to Fairbairn Dam for a morning tea stop. We were joined by some very inquisitive lorikeets. They took great delight in picking at our food on the table and squabbling with each other over who should get to eat the food. Ron stood guard over one who was being bullied by the most dominant one and it was funny to watch. We were last at the dam in 2011 just after the flood and at that time the water was lapping over the spillway. Now it is about 10 metres below. We’ve seen evidence of the lack of rain all around the countryside as everything is extremely dry.

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Lorikeets at lunch                           Fairbairn Dam                       Birdlife at the dam

We had planned to spend the night at Theresa Creek Dam which we’d heard about along the way but the camping area was unpowered and as the expected overnight low was to be 0 degrees we opted for the caravan park in Clermont instead. I’ve been quite unwell since leaving home so didn’t like the idea of freezing. We all liked Clermont and enjoyed having a look around before leaving for Charters Towers the next morning. From there we drove out to Theresa Creek Dam to see what we’d missed out on. It’s a beautiful place and we plan to go back one day to spend some time there.

SAM_4721 Theresa Dam         SAM_4724

Theresa Creek Dam                  My favourite birds

Our final night before getting to Charters Towers was spent at Belyando Crossing (population 5!). Vans on the powered sites were packed in in four rows with three vans one behind the other. The middle van had no hope of going anywhere unless the one in front or behind left! We quite enjoyed the experience though – everyone was very friendly and talkative.

SAM_4727 Belyando Crossing

Belyando Crossing – packed in like sardines!

SAM_4730 Charters Towers

Towers Hill Lookout

We had a good run to Charters Towers on Wednesday and soon settled in to the park there. We opted to stay at the Big 4 Park and it was a lovely spot to be. Took a trip in to town later in the day for me to go to the doctor and also to go to the Information Centre where we hired a CD to use the next day to do a tour of the town and surrounding area. We checked out the fully restored Stock Exchange building before returning to the park to join with dozens of others for bangers and mash. Thursday saw us touring the area. The CD was great to have and gave us lots of information about mining in the district and the early settlers. We visited the Family History Centre to try to find out some information about David’s and Di’s grandparents – Allen and Sofia (Baglini) Guyatt. Their grandfather was a miner here in the late 1890’s and their grandmother was originally a housekeeper for her brother until she and Allen married. We found what we think was their house but who would really know! Charters Towers has changed a lot since we lived in Townsville from 1973 to 1983 and is quite a prosperous looking town now. The climate is lovely at this time of year – so much so that David is threatening to winter here each year!

SAM_4729            SAM_4738           SAM_4739 The World Theatre CT

Is this Grandpa’s house?            The Stock Exchange            The World Theatre

Friday was moving day again with just an overnight stop at Greenvale. When we lived in Townsville it was known for its nickel mine but that has long since closed down and not a lot remains. It was interesting to visit though and to have a walk around the town. These days it is famous for its sausage trees and not much else! That is not strictly true as there is still some nickel being mined around the place. The caravan park was quite pleasant and was well patronised when we there. It was also the home of hundreds of galahs making a lot of noise.

SAM_4742 Rose Garden Greenvale       SAM_4744 Sausage Tree Greenvvale       SAM_4749 Galahs at Greenvale

Roses at Greenvale                 The Sausage Tree                  Galahs everywhere!

We arrived at Undara about midday and we were all excited to be here. It’s been on my list of places to visit for many years so couldn’t believe that we were finally here. The Collins family who own this place settled here in 1862 and six generations of the family have lived here since. The Undara Experience was opened to visitors in 1990.  We had a quiet afternoon and evening before joining a singsong around the campfire after dinner. There have been several highlights for us here. We did The Archway Explorer guided tour which included visiting three of the lava tubes. They were amazing to see and we enjoyed hearing the history of how they were formed. Our fitness was tested as there were about 250 stairs to climb.

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Entrance to a lava tube                    The Archway                  Patterns in the roof of the arch

Later in the afternoon we did a bushwalk to The Bluff then continued on a circuit which brought us back to the park. More climbing hills and stairs but some great views made it worthwhile. There is a huge flat area nearby named the Hundred Mile Swamp. It was so named because it is 100 miles from Cardwell which was the major town in the north in the 1800’s and the road connected the two places. After dinner we joined in a trivia night around the campfire which was a bit of fun.

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Grevillea in flower at the park        View from The Bluff               David on the rocky path

The third highlight was a drive to the Kalkani Crater followed by a 2.5km walk up to the crater and around the rim. Again it was quite a steep climb and a rough, rocky walk around the rim but certainly worth the effort. There are numerous extinct volcanoes in this area and many of them were visible in the distance. When we lived in PNG in the 1970’s we climbed three volcanoes so it was interesting to do so again.

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Walking around the rim           Volcanoes in the distance                  Almost down!

David spent quite a while after we came home fixing a problem with our gas stove top as we were unable to get it to light. It involved pulling the whole thing out and making do with, amongst other things, a paper clip to fix the problem. He and Ron got it sorted and all is well again. Clever boys!

Each site here has it’s own fireplace and barbecue so we made good use of them tonight and cooked and ate a yummy dinner before heading to the communal fireplace again for another trivia night. It’s been a fabulous experience being here but all good things come to an end and tomorrow we move on to Georgetown where there is sure to be much more to see and do.

That’s it for this week.

Brisbane to Cania Gorge


Having been home for 8 months from our trip around Australia we were getting itchy feet so decided it was time to hook up the van and head off into the great outdoors again. After a bit of a debate about whether to go north or south the north won out. We set off on Monday morning July 14 to head to Nanango where our niece Caz lives with her family. We met up there with Di and Ron – our travelling companions from last year and again this year. Caz and Andrew have acreage so we were able to stay at their place. David’s and Di’s oldest sister Robin and her husband Bruce (Caz’s parents) had come to stay as well so we enjoyed some lovely family time together. Tuesday morning we wandered the streets of Nanango looking at the historic sites (not very historic!) and did a tour of a lovely old home called Ringsfield House then in the afternoon took a drive to Kingaroy. We checked out a few things there then on the way home drove past Bethany – the home of Joh and Flo. Alas, the tours are only available two days a week, so no pumpkin scones for us! We packed up on Wednesday morning and said goodbye to Caz, Andrew and Lily. It was great to stay with them and we’ll be back another day.

SAM_4520 Ringsfield House                 SAM_4522

Ringsfield House                       Kingaroy looking to the Bunyas

We had a leisurely drive on Wednesday to our next overnight stop which was at Binjour Range Free Camp (17km north of Gayndah). Detoured along the way to the Kinboombi Falls east of Goomeri. Although there wasn’t masses of water flowing over it was still worth seeing. Along the way we passed a road which crossed Guyatt’s Bridge and we’ve since discovered that the road leads to a property owned by distant relatives of our branch of the Guyatt family.  After a quick look then around Goomeri we continued on to Gayndah where we had a lunch stop at a pleasant rest area on the river bank. On then to the Binjour Range campsite. We arrived mid afternoon expecting to see a lot of other vans but we were the sole occupants and that is how it stayed. It was a great site and we were able to have a campfire which made it even better. We were thankful for a heavy cloud cover as otherwise it would have been rather chilly.

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Kinboombi Falls                          Self-explanatory!               Binjour Range Free Camp

There was a bit of drama on Thursday morning as Ron discovered that the three batteries in his caravan were flat and also the one in his car. The ones in the van were completely dry and it took Ron ages to refill them. We then had to jump start the Prado. Thankfully by the time we reached our next stop at Cania Gorge the batteries were charging nicely. As we only travelled a distance of 170km we had plenty of time to have a look at Eidsvold and then Monto where we stopped for lunch before arriving at Cania Gorge at 2 o’clock. It’s a lovely place and it’s nice to be back here again. We were last here three years ago with our friends Bruce and Gail Mc Cubben. A lazy afternoon was in order, our only exertion after setting up being to participate in the bird feeding! King parrots, lorikeets, rosellas, cockatoos and galahs got stuck into it with great gusto. David got the obligatory droppings down the back of his neck! Although we are in a caravan park campfires are permitted so the guys got a fire going and we spent a few hours sitting around that.

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Bird feeding at Cania Gorge

It was rather cold overnight so we were all thankful that we had heaters in the vans. It took us a while to get going and to head off to do some walks. Our first stop was at Cania Dam – a pretty spot with nice picnic areas. From there we went to the spot where most of the walks in the gorge begin. We did the Dragon Cave, Bloodwood Cave and Gorge Lookout walks. Lots of uphill and at least a couple of hundred steps but it was worth the effort. We had a lazy afternoon and then just before dark got a fire going again to cook a camp oven dinner. We sat around the fire until we were all nearly frozen and then retired to our vans with the heaters going flat out.

SAM_4567 Cania Dam       SAM_4575 Dragon Cave       SAM_4592 Bloodwood Cave

Cania Dam                           Dragon Cave                       Bloodwood Cave

Saturday was to be our last full day here so after a leisurely start to the day we decided to do another walk, this time the Two Storey Cave Circuit. We did it when we were here three years ago but were happy to do it again as the cave is pretty impressive. Ron and I climbed up through a hole to the upper storey while David and Di waited below. It’s a bit of a tricky climb but worth the effort. Once we got back to the car we had a cup of coffee before going to do the walk to the Shamrock Mine which came into being sometime before 1870. There wasn’t a lot to see apart from a bit of old machinery and the old mine shaft. Not much else to report for the day apart from having a delicious woodfired pizza for dinner. We enjoyed chatting with a couple from Burpengary over dinner.

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 King Orchid Crevice  Bottom level Two Storey Cave  Upper level Two Storey Cave

Tomorrow we move on to Dingo as we head further north and hopefully to some warmer weather.

26 November 2013

Circumnavigating Part 20

November 13 and we woke to a nice sunny morning – a bit of a change from the couple of days before.  Went for a walk down to Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie and on the way passed a fellow unloading three camels from a truck.  For a minute we thought we were back in Broome!  We enjoyed exploring Port Macquarie and its lovely beaches before moseying on to South West Rocks.

SAM_3840 Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie         SAM_3845         SAM_3857

Lighthouse Beach                       Camel ride anyone?               Tacking Point Lighthouse

It was a bit wild and windy when we arrived there so we ended up putting our awning up and down a couple of times during the afternoon.  We stayed at Horseshoe Bay Holiday Park and had great views out to sea.  It’s a park we’d always wanted to stay in so were pleased to be there.  Barb and Richard (my sister and brother-in-law) also just happened to be at South West Rocks so they came to visit and then eventually we all walked up town and bought dinner.  It was so cold and windy by then that we took it back to their unit.  It was good to catch up after five months.

SAM_3868 Storm at South West Rocks         SAM_3871 South West Rocks         SAM_3873

Stormy South West Rocks       Perfect South West Rocks               Back Creek

Thursday morning the sun was shining again and the bay looked magnificent.  We had an early morning walk before breakfast and then afterwards set off to explore the ruins of Trial Bay Gaol which was completed in 1886 after having taken 13 years to build.  It was a Public Works gaol built to house inmates who were to build a break wall at Trial Bay to protect ships anchored there whilst resupplying and also taking refuge from storms on the voyage from Sydney to Brisbane.  Construction began in 1889 and after ten years the wall was still only one seventh of the proposed final length or just 300 metres long.  The project was abandoned and the gaol closed in 1903.  It was re-opened during World War 1 as a German Internment Camp housing 500 Germans from 1915 to 1918 until they were transferred to Sydney.  The gaol was abandoned in 1922 but the ruins have since been restored and it is a wonderful place to visit and is in a magnificent setting.  We had morning tea down by the sea at the camping area – another place we’d like to return to and spend some time one day.  One unpleasant thing here has been the hundreds of dead mutton birds on the beaches.  They travel 15,000 kilometres from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere to breed and because of the bad weather this year many more than usual have died from exhaustion.

SAM_3877           SAM_3904            SAM_3908

Trial Bay Gaol

On Friday we did a guided tour of the Smoky Cape Lighthouse.  The talk given by the guide was very informative and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing the history of the lighthouse which has been operating since 1891.  The whole complex has recently been refurbished and it looks immaculate.  Barb and Richard called in again after we arrived home so we sat and chatted before walking down to the waterfront.  Later on Ron, Di, David and I decided to go to dinner at the surf lifesaving club.  We settled ourselves in and then were told there would be a wait of at least an hour so we moved on and found a nice little pizza and pasta restaurant and enjoyed our meal there.  A storm hit while we were out and we arrived back at the van to find that the rain had blown in a few of the windows so I had a bit of cleaning up to do.

SAM_3960 Captain Cook's Lookout           SAM_3961 Smoky Cape Lighthouse           SAM_3989

Captain Cook’s Lookout                    Inside the light                Smoky Cape Lighthouse

We are now at Yamba (the final stop on our trip) having arrived here on Saturday.  Time for a bit of R&R to recover from our five months of travel!  No sooner had we set up than the rain started and it poured down for the rest of the day.  A good excuse to curl up on the bed with a book!  Sunday dawned bright and sunny so we went for a walk out to the end of the rock wall at the mouth of the Clarence River.  Home then for breakfast before going to church.  We’d hoped to catch up with friends there but unfortunately for us they are travelling for a couple of months.  We enjoyed sharing in worship.  Not too much action for the rest of the day.  Just wandered around the town for a while and then had another walk at the end of the day.

SAM_4000         SAM_4001 Sunlit sea at Yamba        SAM_4006

Feathered friends                        Sunlit sea at Yamba               Relaxing on the wall

David and I were up early (well, early for us) and had a good walk before breakfast – it involved some rock clambering and climbing through a fence to get up to the lighthouse.  We wandered the streets of Yamba with Di and Ron later on and then Di and I banished the men so that we could check out the dress and shoe shops.  To their great relief we came home empty-handed.  We had our first visit to the movies for this trip and saw Captain Phillips – the true story of the highjacking of an American cargo ship in 2009.  We found it to be a quite distressing film.  A big storm came though late this afternoon – thunder, lightning, wind and masses of rain but thankfully no hail.

SAM_4009 Yamba           SAM_4017            SAM_4022 Stormy sunset at Yamba

Yamba                                     Clarence Head Light      Sunset through the storm clouds

Our last couple of days at Yamba have been fairly relaxing.  We enjoyed a visit from my cousin Marie and her husband Tom on Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday we caught the ferry to Iluka and then walked up to the hotel where we enjoyed a nice lunch before walking back to the wharf again for the return trip.  Di and Ron have friends here who came with us.  There were hundreds upon hundreds of jellyfish in the river.  The ferry ride was breezy but lovely.  We’ve been for lots of walks as well – it’s so nice to walk along the river or down to the beach.

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Some of the jellyfish                  Arriving back at Yamba                 One final sunset!

We were a little sad to pack up on Thursday morning and begin the trip home.  We called in at the Macadamia Castle for morning tea and a final wrap of our five months on the road.  It’s been a wonderful time and we feel very blessed to have been able to do it.

Some facts and figures for those who are interested!

Distance covered:    28,736 kilometres (This includes 7,055 on day trips in Di and Ron’s car)

Total fuel used:        3039.33 litres (Price range from 144.9 to 204.9 cents per litre)

Average litres per 100km: 14.02 litres

Fuel cost:                        $5,036.60

Site costs:                       $4,747.00

Time away:                      5 months

We arrived home just after mid-day and were greeted soon after by Rachel and Eden which was a lovely surprise.  We’re busy planning our next trips as there is so much more to see and do in our wonderful country.  Watch this space!!

Circumnavigating – Part 19

After a enjoyable couple of days at Mildura it was time to pack up and move on.  We overnighted at a little town called Nyah on the Murray River in a large campground behind the harness racing club.  No racing to be seen – in fact one of the locals told us that a new track had been built in Swan Hill, much to their disgust, so the Nyah track is only used for training.  Apart from a walk along the river bank we didn’t do too much else.  We were able to stay hooked up which was great and made for a quick getaway the next morning.  Echuca was our next destination.  We’d all been there years before but had found it an interesting place so decided to spend two nights there.  It was Melbourne Cup day so there wasn’t much open in the town when we went for a wander later in the day.  These Victorians do love their Cup and also the fact that they get a public holiday for it.  We looked around the historical wharf area and bought some tickets for a paddle steamer trip the next day.

SAM_3508 Echuca           SAM_3510           SAM_3512

Paddlesteamer on Murray          Thong tree, Echuca           Houseboats on the Murray

Wednesday morning dawned and we boarded the PS Pevensey which was built in 1911 at the neighbouring town of Moama (across the river in NSW).  The Pevensey is special because it is authentic and still has its original steam engine.  It was renamed “Philadelphia” and used in the tv mini-series “All the Rivers Run” which was made in Echuca in 1982-83.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the Murray and we’d love to do a one or two nighter on a paddle steamer one day.  We had another look at the town afterwards – there are some interesting shops here and then finished our morning out with lunch at Beechworth Bakery overlooking the Campaspe River that, just a little further on, joins the Murray.  Later in the day David and Ron went to the National Holden Motor Museum but Di and I stayed home.  We had a swim at the end of the day to cool off as it had been a very hot day.

SAM_3523         SAM_3526         SAM_3538 Beechworth Bakery, Echuca

Three level wharf, Echuca        PS Pevensey on the Murray        Beechworth Bakery

We turned the corner and crossed the Murray into NSW on Thursday to begin our trip northward to home.  I think we were all thankful to be in the cars driving for a few hours as the temperature reached 38 degrees.  We could see the heat haze shimmering on the horizon and felt hot just looking out at it.  Morning tea was at Finley Lake – a pretty little spot.  Spent the night at Narrandera Showgrounds at a cost of $15 which was pretty good.  We turned the air on in the vans and there we stayed for the afternoon and night.  We were on the road again on Friday – this time to Forbes.  As we drove through Narrandera on our way out of town we were impressed by the beautiful old trees lining the streets.  We’d love to come back in autumn to see the colours.  Passed through lots of wheat country again which wasn’t good for our hay fever.  We’ve been battling it and living on antihistamines for a few weeks now.  How could so much of Australia grow wheat??  It seems to have been everywhere we’ve been for weeks.  One night was spent in Forbes at a park on the river.  Rivers seem to be everywhere we go too – just like the wheat!  We’re not complaining about that though as it’s great to be near water.  Not much to report from Forbes – we’ll go back another time to see more of it.  David and I spent the afternoon watching the Australian PGA Golf Championship  on TV hoping to catch a glimpse of Matt.

SAM_3547 Finley Lake         SAM_3552 Narrandera

Finley Lake                                Trees at Narrandera

Saturday saw us on the road again and heading to Dubbo where we were to spend a couple of nights.  We stopped in at a market in Parkes.  David and Ron are getting very good at patiently accompanying Di and me as we wander around markets.  We managed to buy a few things to put away for Christmas.  Next port of call was the Radio Telescope just out of Parkes.  It was great to visit there but somewhere we’ll have to go back to again as we didn’t have time to watch the 3D movie and see all of the exhibits.  Along the way we saw a large number of cattle in the “long paddock”.  Seems as though the farmers here are struggling with drought as well.  We were in a hurry to get to Dubbo to hopefully get the TV set up and watch Matt tee off in the third round of the PGA Tournament.  Unfortunately we were about 10 minutes too late.  Di and Ron went out in the afternoon but we stayed home and watched the golf.  Matt had another good day and was equal 12th at the end of that round.

SAM_3553 The Long Paddock               SAM_3558 Radio Telescope Parkes

Cattle in the long paddock               Radio Telescope, Parkes

As Sunday was our only full day at Dubbo we decided to visit the zoo.  We spent a few hours there and unlike our only other visit, most of the animals co-operated by being awake.  Perhaps the fact that it was a cooler day helped.  My favourites had to be the Siamang Apes – they are such fun.  I also love the intricate markings on the tigers, zebras and giraffes.  We came home before Di and Ron as we wanted to watch the end of the golf.  Unfortunately Matt had a disastrous start to the day dropping six shots in four holes.  We were very proud of the way he fought back after that though, playing the final fourteen holes at two under par.  It was a heartbreaking end to the tournament for him after doing so well the first three days.  Being a pro golfer is not an easy life at times and being the parents of one has its tough moments too!  It was good to talk to him later in the afternoon before he headed home to pack and rush off to Melbourne for the next event.

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SAM_3727         SAM_3765         SAM_3805

Some of our favourite animals at Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

After planning the final part of our trip we packed up and moved on on Monday to a free camp 12 km out of Gunnedah.  It was a good spot and we were joined by quite a few other vans as the afternoon progressed.  We’d parked in a shady spot as it was quite hot when we arrived but during the afternoon the storms began rolling in and were very threatening so we moved into an open area with no trees in reach of us.  The wind blew and the rain poured down but thankfully we were all okay when morning dawned.  We were on our way again before 8.30am but weren’t far down the road when the rain started to bucket down again.  It continued all the way to where we’d planned to free camp again and none of us could face another night in the middle of nowhere in the rain and without power so we continued on to Port Macquarie.  In spite of the rain though the drive was through beautiful country.  We travelled from Tamworth through Walcha then on to Wauchope to Port Macquarie.  It was incredibly mountainous country – I think David mentioned in a post on Facebook that there were 3,765 turns and I don’t think he was exaggerating by much!!  It was a slow trip as the rain and the winding roads combined to make it that much more difficult.  We were pleased to arrive safely in Port Macquarie just before 4 o’clock.

SAM_3818 Red Rock Free Camp         SAM_3838         David and Jen crossing range

Sunset at Red Rock                     Stockyard Creek             Driving through the mountains

Tomorrow we’ll be moving on to South West Rocks for a few days and then hopefully will follow that up with a stay at Yamba before this whole wonderful experience comes to an end.  So….one or at the most two more episodes of this blog and then I’m done!  I can hear you cheering from here!!

Circumnavigating – Part 18

We travelled to Port Lincoln on Saturday (about 290 kilometres) but took our time and stopped to look at a few things along the way.  Our first stop was to look at Murphy’s Haystacks which are actually inselbergs (isolated hills, knobs or outcrops that rise abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain).  They were named , legend has it, by a Scottish agricultural expert who saw them in the distance and remarked, “That man must harrow, look at all the hay he has saved”.  The farmer’s name was Murphy and the rest, as they say, is history!  It was very interesting to see them although the flies beat us there!  We continued on then until we came to a sign that said “Elliston Clifftop Drive” and couldn’t resist doing the drive along there.  Once again spectacular clifftop views of the coastline.  We had morning tea at a picnic table set on the cliff’s edge.  It was beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles in memory of a 17 year old boy who drowned in the surf nearby.  While there someone pointed out a brown snake in bushes that we had just walked past and when we went to look another one appeared as well.  We steered clear of both of them!  We began to see the first of many ruins of old drystone walls and buildings that we remembered from our previous visit to SA.  After a longish day on the road we finally arrived at the caravan park.

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Murphy’s Haystacks                  Wildlife – a brown snake!           Elliston Cliftop Drive

Sunday morning we went to church at the Port Lincoln Uniting Church.  It was a great service led by a very energetic young minister.  He was a part of the music team as well – had a lovely voice and also played the harmonica.  We discovered afterwards that the church there supports a feeding programme in Mwandi (Zambia) that our church also has had a lot of involvement with so there was great excitement about that.  After leaving the church we went for a drive to Coffin Bay – apparently famous for its oysters.  Ron tried some and thought they were pretty good.  As we were  driving around we came across an emu running down a suburban street.  It was quite a funny sight.  Looked around Port Lincoln in the afternoon and that was that.  It was a cold, windy place – just like almost everywhere else we’ve been for the past couple of months.

SAM_3228 Port Lincoln from lookout        SAM_3212 Emu at Coffin Bay        SAM_3235

Banksia at Port Lincoln           Roadrunner at Coffin Bay     One of the many fishing boats

It was moving time again on Monday and we were heading to Whyalla.  Stopped in along the way at Tumby Bay, Port Neill and Arno Bay for a quick look around.  We asked for drive through sites at Whyalla as we were all too tired to want to do anything and had a hard time convincing the girl in the office that we wouldn’t be going out and just planned to spend the afternoon relaxing.  The town lived up to its name of “windy Whyalla”.  We made up for our slackness when we were leaving the next morning by visiting the local lookouts and also taking a drive past the house my niece Nicole lived in when she taught here.

SAM_3256 Caravan Park Whyalla                             SAM_3257 Flinders Lookout, Whyalla

Windy Whyalla                                    Matthew Flinders visits Whyalla

We then continued on to Spear Creek near Port Augusta.  It is a working sheep station which has diversified into tourism with a caravan park on the station.  It was fairly basic but we loved being in the country and would recommend it to anyone rather than staying in Port Augusta.  We went back into town in the afternoon firstly to visit the Matthew Flinders/Redcliff Lookout so named as it was there he stood in 1802 and named various mountains in the Flinders Ranges.  There was a great view to the top of Spencer Gulf and on to the mountains.  Next stop was the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden.  David and I had visited it in 1998 and weren’t very impressed by it.  It has improved since then but I think we missed the best of it by a couple of weeks.  Home then to cook dinner in the camp oven and relax in the shade of the beautiful red river gums.  Next morning we drove back to Port Augusta as Di and Ron wanted to visit the Wadlata Outback Centre.  David and I had been there previously so we just had a wander around the town for a couple of hours.  We met up again in time to go and have lunch beside the gulf.  Had a campfire at night – first time we’ve been able to do that in ages.  I made a damper which we cooked in the coals.  It was good to be able to share it with some of the other caravanners and to share some travel stories as well.

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Spencer Gulf & red cliffs        Arid Lands Botanic Garden                  Our campfire

We were sad to say goodbye to Spear Creek on Thursday but there’s always somewhere great to visit just “down the road”.  We took some back roads and drove through lovely old towns on the way.  Wilmington, Melrose, Wirrabara, Stone Hut, Laura, Gladstone and Burra to name a few of them.  Lots of history, beautiful old stone buildings and the highlight – the bakery at Stone Hut which claims to have the best pies in the universe.  No small claim!  Unfortunately I was feeling ill so passed but the others did their best to test it out!  We saw lots of ruins along the way.  Copper was found in Burra in 1845 and from 1871 was mined commercially for 6 years until it was no longer profitable.  Almost one hundred years later the mine was reopened and mining continued until 1981 when the copper ran out.  It was interesting to visit the museum and also see the ruins of the buildings there.   After a long day we arrived at Morgan on the Murray River.  We hadn’t booked – bad mistake it seemed, as there were no powered sites available.  It turned out to be to our advantage as the unpowered sites which only cost $20.80 per night were in a lovely grassy area overlooking the river.  We had a walk along the river bank and then sat and watched the river meander by.  Morgan was the busiest inland port in South Australia in the 19th century at the height of the paddle steamer era.  Part of the old wharf, which has three levels like the one in Echuca, has been restored.

SAM_3320         SAM_3335        SAM_3362 Campsite at Morgan
Beautiful Flinders Ranges        Old copper mine at Burra         From our site At Morgan

Our next destination was Mildura and again we had a most enjoyable day checking out little towns along the way.  Waikerie, Cobdogla, Barmera, Berri and Renmark just to name a few.  We lost Di and Ron at Barmera as we detoured in and they didn’t see us turn off.  Thank goodness for mobile phones as after a couple of calls we were reunited.  While in Barmera we stopped to look at Lake Bonney – a beautiful lake which is well used for all sorts of water sports.  At Renmark we visited Ruston’s Roses.  Wow – what a place.  It has 50,000 bushes and 4,000 varieties and it has one of the largest and most important collections of roses in the world.  Whichever way we turned there were more roses and the aroma was wonderful.

SAM_3366 Bruno Bay at Cobdogla         SAM_3376        SAM_3377 Ruston's Roses, Renmark

Bruno Bay, Cobdogla               Lake Bonney, Barmera          Rustons’ Roses, Renmark

We had to turn our watches/clocks forward by 30 minutes when we crossed the border and we’re now on Eastern Daylight time.  It was another long day and by the time we settled in at the park and sat down to lunch it was 3.45pm!  This park is also on the banks of the Murray and although we keep saying we’re at Mildura we are actually at Buronga NSW on the other side of the river.  We’ve spent quite a bit of time sitting and watching paddle steamers steaming up and down the river.

SAM_3403        SAM_3417 Parrots at Baronga Caravan Park        SAM_3420 Paddle Steamer on the Murray

Feathered Friends…………………..and more                        Paddlesteamer on the Murray

Saturday saw us heading to the farmers’ markets first up.  An amazing array of produce on offer from the Sunraysia area and a lot of other food goodies that were very tempting but we resisted the temptation.  Next port of call was Lock 11 where we were just in time to see the paddlesteamer Melbourne entering the lock on its way downstream.  The difference between the river levels upstream and downstream of the weir is normally 3.6 metres and we enjoyed watching the operation before the Melbourne went on its merry way.  Grocery shopping next then home to the vans to try to escape the 37 degree heat for a while.  Later on we went to Wentworth to see where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet.  There is normally a noticeable difference in the colour of the rivers but, disappointingly, they were both the same muddy brown colour.  We visited another little town on our way back to Mildura called Gol Gol.  It’s also on the Murray River and a quaint little place.  Once back at the park we took our chairs and sat on the river bank where we were entertained by a family of ducks who were squabbling amongst themselves.  We also were entertained by the sounds of music which wafted across the river from a jazz festival which is held in Mildura each year in the week prior to the Melbourne Cup.  Not a bad way to spend an hour or two.  Di and I went for a swim before dinner to try to cool off.  I swam and Di sat on the edge and we both succeeded in cooling off.

SAM_3428 Paddlesteamer Melbourne at Lock 11         SAM_3440         SAM_3467 Junction of Murray and Darling Rivers

Melbourne entering lock            Melbourne leaving lock         The Darling and Murray meet

Today was our final day in Mildura.  We went to St Andrew’s Uniting Church to start the day and were blessed by our time there.  Our final touristy thing for this area was a drive to Red Cliffs.  It was supposed to be about 15 minutes away but the signage along the way wasn’t the best so we ended up seeing a bit more of the countryside than we’d intended!  As luck would have it, the town holds markets on the first Sunday of the month so we checked them out.  The main claim to fame of the town is Big Lizzie – the strangest machine you’ve ever seen.  It was used to clear scrub land in 1920 for blocks of land for veterans of World War I.  It had a turning circle of 61 metres, its travelling speed was 1 mile per hour and it was driven from Melbourne.  That’s some drive at that speed!  It’s quite fascinating to see.  Before returning to our vans we went to see the red cliffs which the town is named after and then we were homeward bound.  A lazy afternoon, and more sitting by the river brings our time at Mildura/Buronga to a close.

SAM_3466         SAM_3489         SAM_3493

Love these parrots!                         Big Lizzie                           Red cliffs at Red Cliffs!

Our journey along the Murray will continue for a few more days with our next stop being somewhere around Swan Hill.  See you soon!

Circumnavigating – Part 17

We left Esperance on Tuesday 15th to head to Kalgoorlie.  The first 200km was through beautiful country dotted with wildflowers all along the way.  Pulled in to Norseman for a morning tea break and we all agreed that the town didn’t have much going for it.  Back in the cars again for about another 200km.  It seemed to go on forever and we were thankful to finally arrive at the park in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.  We had a quiet afternoon.  David tracked down a place to have our car serviced the next day but not much else happened.  I also talked to the father of a friend from church who lives here.  Michelle had suggested we give him a ring to find out about things to see and do around here.  We arranged to meet Peter at 8.30 the next morning.

SAM_2587 Camels at Norseman              SAM_2595

Camels at Norseman                          Kalgoorlie sunset

David dropped our car off for a service at 8.00am and then we picked him up and went on to collect Peter.  We went to look at Kanowna which is a ghost town about 20km from Kalgoorlie.  It was gazetted as a town in 1894 after the discovery of gold the previous year and by 1899 had a population of 12,500.  As the amount of gold being produced decreased so did the population and in 1953 the town was officially abandoned.  Apart from part of the railway station, a couple of cemeteries, some old mine workings and signs marking the sites of significant buildings, there is nothing there now.  It was very interesting visiting it with Peter who is a geologist as he had mapped the area in the 1980s and knew the area and the story of the town extremely well.

SAM_2605 Kanowna - old gold mining diggings             SAM_2606

Mullock heaps at Kanowna          A lonely grave at Kanowna

From there we ventured on a bit further and then off the road onto a four wheel drive track through bushes etc to who knows where.  Fortunately Peter knew and we ended up at some breakaways where soil etc has washed away and left interesting rocky formations.  We spent ages walking around enjoying it all and listening to Peter’s explanations of what we were seeing.  It was an extremely interesting morning and we were very thankful that Michelle had suggested we contact her dad.  When we dropped him home he invited us in to see their house which had been moved in the 1930s from the ghost town we had visited.  Lots of beautifully restored jarrah timber inside the house and it was great to see it all.

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The Breakaways                     Beauty in the barrenness                 More breakaways

Later in the afternoon we drove up to the Super Pit Lookout.  Wow!  It is enormous.  It is 3.5km long, 1.6km wide and 620 metres deep and the huge trucks and machinery working in it looked like little models.  We stayed for ages as it was fascinating to watch.  Apparently it could hold the equivalent of 220,000 olympic swimming pools or 39,000,000 Toyota Hilux utes stacked like bricks.  The mind boggles!  The largest machine called a face shovel cost $10,000,000 and there are four of them plus countless other trucks, loaders, dozers and so on.  It was well the visit.

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At work in the Super Pit

Friday dawned and it was hot!  So different to what we’ve been experiencing that it was a bit of a shock.  The temperature got up to 35 degrees and after being in winter woollies for the last couple of months we had to go digging for shorts, t-shirts etc.  We began the day with a visit to Coolgardie which was settled in the early 1890s after gold was discovered.  It is a small town now compared to Kalgoorlie but has some lovely old buildings.  After a stop at the Information Centre to get some info we then went to visit Burra Rocks, 60km south of Coolgardie.  There is a small dam there as well which was used to supply water for steam-driven engines that were used to bring timber to Kalgoorlie-Boulder from 1921 to 1937.  We were all just about ready to dive into the dam to escape both the heat and the flies – it was hard to know which was worse.  We all climbed up to the top of the rocks from which we had 360 degree views of the countryside.  When we arrived back at Coolgardie we called in to look through a house which was built in 1895 for the first Mining Warden and Resident magistrate and were taken on a tour through it by the caretaker.  He talked non-stop at a very rapid pace, had no teeth so was very hard to understand and at the end of it none of us were any the wiser about the history of the house.  One interesting fact we gleaned from a brochure was that the house was built by Bunnings Brothers who went on to found Bunnings Hardware stores.  We found a lovely grassed park to have lunch before returning to Kalgoorlie.  We finished off the day with a visit to the museum where we saw some interesting displays about gold mining and the social history of the area then it was back to the vans to collapse and recover.  David cooked a leg of lamb in the Weber for dinner which we devoured with great gusto!  After dinner David and I caught up with some people we’d met in Broome – Andrew and Robyn and spent a very pleasant hour chatting with them.

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Coolgardie Town Hall                David atop Burra Rocks            Through a rock to the dam

We enjoyed our time in Kalgoorlie but on Saturday morning it was time to pack up and begin the long trek across the Nullabor.  After a stop in Norseman for morning tea we set off for Fraser Range Free Camp but didn’t managed to find it so continued on to just past Balladonia Roadhouse and another free camp where to our amazement we had phone coverage and internet.  There was another couple there so we invited them to join us for afternoon tea and enjoyed chatting until rain drove us all inside.  Sunday saw us on the road again for another long day just punctuated by stops at roadhouses for fuel and a stop at Madura Bluff to check out the view over the plains below.  We drove the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 146.6 kilometres and also drove over several emergency landing strips marked for the Royal Flying Doctor Service on the highway .  Our stop for the night was just a little further on at Moodini Bluff and was a huge area that was very dry and dusty.  We’d no sooner set up when the rain started and it went on nearly all night accompanied by some wind as well.  There were huge pools of water everywhere but we managed to get out of the campsite on Monday morning.  Rain and wind accompanied us for a lot of the day but we were still able to stop at some wonderful spots to look at the Bunda Cliffs on the Great Australian Bight.  It’s an amazing coastline and the sea was a beautiful colour.  We stopped at Eucla for fuel and while there detoured to look at the old Telegraph Station ruins which are half buried in sand now.  We couldn’t help wondering why it was ever built there in the first place.  Our third night crossing the Nullabor was a wild night.  We stopped at 164k Peg Camp Site (interesting name!) where it was blowing an absolute gale and of course, raining.  No socialising – we just battened down the hatches and huddled in our vans with our poptops pulled down for part of or all the night.  Our final day on the Nullabor and the feature of the day was our stop at the Head of the Bight.  Once again the coastline was spectacular and the wind was roaring!  We were pleased to finally arrive at Ceduna where we booked into a lovely caravan park.  We caught up on a few chores, did some grocery shopping and then had a quiet afternoon.

SAM_2811 Longest straight road       SAM_2816       SAM_2844

The sign says it all!               Camping at Moodini Bluff       Old Telegraph Station at Eucla


Bunda Cliffs – Great Australian Bight

Although we had planned to only have one night at Ceduna we changed our minds and booked in for a second night as we were all feeling very tired.  On Tuesday morning we went to look at the port area 3k out of the town at a place called Thevenard.  David had been thinking back to his days at ANL and couldn’t recall there being a port at Ceduna but as soon as he saw the name Thevenard it all came back to him and he remembered that the ANL ships carried gypsum from there.    Looks like his memory isn’t so bad after all!  We watched some front end loaders for quite a while that were loading salt onto a conveyor belt which was then loaded onto a ship.  Found a place selling seafood near the wharf next so bought some King George Whiting which we took home and cooked for lunch.  Di, Ron and I went to the museum later on.  There were some interesting displays there but as with most of the museums we’ve visited, everything was covered in dust.  There was a display about Maralinga where the nuclear testing was carried out by the UK in the 1950’s which was good to see.  Back at the park a couple who were next to us (Cec and Jeanette) came over for a chat for a while until the cold drove us all into our vans again.

SAM_3014 Shipping salt in Ceduna        SAM_3016        SAM_3024

Huge salt pile at Ceduna             Thevenard Lighthous                Pelican and friends

Next stop – Streaky Bay – and we’re staying at a park right on the foreshore in a great spot.  Well it would have been had it not been blowing furiously as well as being icy cold.  As we were leaving Ceduna in the morning we stopped to check something on the van and in my usual clumsy fashion, I went over on my ankle and ended up on the ground.  It was painful for the rest of the day so I didn’t do very much – just kept my foot up as much as I could.  Streaky Bay is quite small but seems nice enough.  Bought some freshly cooked king prawns for lunch – yum!  Today we called at the Visitor Centre to get the lowdown on what to see.  We drove around the two loops suggested – one to the north and the other to the south of the town and both about 30km of dirt road.  More magnificent coastline to gaze at and admire.  The flies were out in force so we put our fly nets on which we’d bought while crossing the Nullabor.  They aren’t exactly a fashion statement but are certainly effective.

SAM_3059         SAM_3107 Pelicans at Streaky Bay         SAM_3075

Blowholes – Streaky Bay            Mr Percival, I presume         David surveying Cape Bauer

Tomorrow we’ll be on the road again – this time to Port Lincoln.  I’ll post this before then and be back again in a week or so.  Bye now!

Circumnavigating – Part 16

Monday was our last day before leaving Denmark and we decided to go west back to Walpole and the surrounding area as we’d bypassed that on the weekend owing to bad weather.  Had a great time on the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk which at its highest is 40 metres above the ground.  We were still dwarfed by the trees around us.  Following on from that we went on the Ancient Empire Boardwalk which winds amongst some old tingle trees.  Loved the rapids on the Frankland River and also Circular Pool.  At Coalmine Beach in the Walpole Inlet we had a brief stop and then went to check out the giant tingle tree.  Tingle trees are much larger at the base of their trunks than they are higher up.  The  circumference of the giant one at it’s base measures 24 metres and there were many others almost as large.  As we drove back to Denmark we stopped at Conspicuous Cliff which was a beautiful beach with a boardwalk that led down 133 steps and onto the beach.  It was awe inspiring to say the least.  Our last port of call was Peaceful Bay which is a sleepy little holiday/fishing village and after that we were ready to call it a day.

SAM_0043          SAM_0137          SAM_0203

Tree Top Walk                                Coalmine Beach                   Frankland River rapids


Conspicuous Cliff

On Tuesday morning we departed for Albany and were at the caravan park by 10.00am.  Fortunately for us our sites were available so we were able to get straight onto them and set up.  We didn’t do a lot of note for the rest of the day.  Caught up on some grocery shopping and had a bit of a look around to work out where things were.  Albany was the site of the first settlement in WA (1826) which was 3 years before Perth was settled and is built around a beautiful harbour.  We went to a lookout overlooking King George Sound which opens into the Southern Ocean.  There were some commemorative plaques there about Albany being the gathering point and last port of call for vessels carrying the troops departing for training in Egypt in 1914 and ultimately Gallipoli in 1915.  We visited a few other points of interest around the harbour before returning to our vans.

SAM_0235    King George Sound, Albany

We visited the Mt Barker Banksia Farm Wednesday as Di had been really keen to do that.  It is a world renowned place and has the only complete collection worldwide of the 102 known varieties.  It was very impressive for what originally started out as a hobby.  We listened to a talk first by the guy who owns the farm and then wandered the gardens dodging showers as they came and went and all enjoyed our time there.  Drove home a different way via Porongurup National Park – pretty but very wet due to the rain so we didn’t stop to do any walks.

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Some of the different types of banksias at the Banksia Farm

Thursday was spent closer to home as we wanted to see the sights of Torndirrup National Park to the south of Albany which according to the map we had “has some of the most spectacular natural scenery on the coast”.  We soon found it to be no exaggeration.  Cable Beach (not the famed Broome one!), The Gap, Natural Bridge, Frenchman Bay, Vancouver Lookout, Misery Beach, Salmon Holes and Jimmy Newhills Harbour were each special in their own way but my picks, I think, were The Gap and Natural Bridge.  We all could have stayed there for ages just gazing at the views.  If only Albany wasn’t so far from home we could be tempted to live here as it is a beautiful part of Australia.  We also spent half the day checking Matt’s golf score as he was playing in the Western Australian Open.  At the end of the round he was equal 45th so a bit of work to be done.

SAM_0408                                                      Natural Bridge

SAM_0388         SAM_0425         SAM_0439

The Gap                                       Frenchman Bay                         Salmon Holes

Another change of plans with our itinerary – something we seem to be doing regularly.  We left Albany at 8.30am for a drive of a little over 400km to Hyden which is the home of Wave Rock.  It was a long drive, not helped by our GPS leading us astray and adding an extra 30km to the day.  Between two little towns along the way is the Tin Horse Tourist Route.  We found it very amusing to see horses made out of anything from beer cans to 44 gallon drums, in all sorts of poses.  Great fun!  Treated ourselves to an ensuite site again and we’ve enjoyed the little bit of luxury.  We went on a quick walk at sunset to see Wave Rock just to whet our appetites!  After dinner we settled in for the night with the heater on as it was very chilly and an expected overnight minimum of 4 degrees.  Matt had a good day in the Open, made the cut and was equal 5th so a jump of 40 places.

As we were only having one full day in Hyden and a few walks to do, we set off early.  The caravan park we stayed in is right at Wave Rock so we just walked up a path and were there.  The Hyden Rock Walk which is 1.3 kilometres long takes you right to the top of the rock – quite a climb but well worth it.  As we were walking along the top we could faintly hear Amazing Grace being played on bagpipes.  Couldn’t believe our eyes when we came around a huge rocky outcrop and there before us was a piper!  Wave Rock is a granite cliff 15 metres high and 110 metres long with beautiful coloured vertical stripes caused by rain washing chemicals down the face.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to see so was thrilled to be there.  The next walk was the Hippo’s Yawn Loop (1.7km).  It’s so named because it looks just like that!

SAM_0477         SAM_0580         SAM_0599

Tin Horse Tourist Route                   Wave Rock                                Hippo’s Yawn

After a break for a cuppa we went to see Mulka’s Cave and The Humps both about 20km from Hyden.  Mulka’s Cave has some aboriginal paintings in it and The Humps are huge granite outcrops.  The walk there was quite challenging as it was a long way to the top.  Di decided her knees weren’t up to it so she wandered around looking at plants while the rest of us tackled it.  To say we were breathing heavily by the time we reached the top would be an understatement but once up there it was like being on top of the world.  Lots of huge rock formations were scattered about and in various places there were plants growing out of seemingly solid rock.  It reminded us of Ubirr in Kakadu with its 360 degree views of beautiful countryside.  After about 5 km of fairly strenuous walking we decided that was enough so headed back to town via a pretty little round lake called Lake Magic.  Just before sunset Di and I climbed up Hyden Rock again to watch the sunset and David joined us after a while.  It was lovely and peaceful up there so we just sat and watched the sun slowly sink behind the trees.  It was a cold and windy day again with just a few spots of rain.  Temperature overnight was down to 2 degrees – we’re wondering what has happened to the lovely spring weather we were expecting.  The end of Matt’s third day at the Open and he was up to equal 3rd.  We spent ages trying to decide whether to make a quick dash back to Perth (345 km) for the final day but in the end sanity prevailed and we decided to just follow along on the net.

SAM_0663 The Humps         SAM_0687          SAM_0696

The climb ahead of us                  View from the top                    On the way back down

Moving day for us again – this time to Esperance which was a distance of 381 km.  For the first couple of hundred kilometres there were masses of wildflowers along the roadside which we loved looking at.  This part of the world is also wheat and canola country and the crops have had an awful effect on David and me.  We’ve felt quite miserable with hayfever for a few days so have been swallowing allergy tablets with gay abandon!   We again spent the day following the golf scores.  Matt finished the tournament equal 11th.  A good hitout for him leading up to the Perth International which begins on Thursday 17th.

After a longish day on the road on Sunday it was time for a bit of relaxation.  We went for a long walk on the beach early in the day then home for breakfast and a lazy morning.  David and Ron went in search of a couple of bits and pieces for our van which they found but Di and I stayed home.  In the afternoon we went on the Great Ocean Drive to the west of Esperance.  Simply stunning beaches each one surpassing the previous one for beauty.  We had a wonderful time and again felt so fortunate to be doing this day after day.  Home via town for a little look around and to buy some groceries.

SAM_2447 Twilight Beach         SAM_2487         SAM_2494 Old jetty Esperance Bay

Twilight Beach                               West Beach               Remains of jetty at Esperance

Tuesday dawned and we were all feeling a little anxious as Kim (Di and Ron’s daughter) was to see Dr Charlie Teo in Sydney re surgery on the benign tumour at the base of her skull.  We eventually heard that he has agreed to operate which is a huge relief and an answer to prayer.  After an early morning walk and breakfast we set off to visit Cape Le Grand National Park to the east of Esperance.  Once again the scenery was awesome.  We clambered over rocks, walked on beaches and at times just sat and admired the view.

SAM_2542 Thistle Cove

Thistle Cove

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One of the locals                          Beauty in nature                         Taking a break

We’ll be sad to leave this beautiful part of the world but tomorrow it’s time to move on to Kalgoorlie.  This time next week we’ll be part way across the Nullabor Plain.  See you then!